Inspired by Moroccan traditions, Dr. Mia Chae Reddy reimagines the beauty landscape with a line of plant-based products.
BY JOHANNA FERREIRA
After living abroad in Italy and studying under a fourth generation herbalist while visiting Marrakech, Morocco, Dr. Mia Chae Reddy was inspired to launch her own skincare brand that celebrates global beauty traditions.
“I believe my past experiences completely set me up for the moment I met the herbalist. It was serendipitous,” says Reddy, who started in skincare with Clinique and went on to become a makeup artist for Smashbox and Chanel. She eventually opened her own women’s clothing boutique in Chicago and years later went on to get her Ph.D from the University of Maryland in American Studies. “All of these things led me to the defining moment when I met the herbalist in the Jewish Quarter of Marrakech. In that moment, I knew I was going to create a plant-based beauty brand inspired by Moroccan beauty rituals.”
Reddy was born in Seoul, South Korea, raised in Southeast Wisconsin and currently lives in Southern California. Her upbringing plays a huge part in her appreciation and contributions towards beauty representation.
“I was a black-and-Korean girl growing up in the rural Midwest with white parents—the only person of color, let alone brown person in my school and town. This was the 1980s. My parents and extended family always made me feel beautiful growing up but I knew that the other people in our small town didn’t see me as beautiful, they saw me as different,” she says. “Beauty has always felt like such a complicated and contradictory topic in my life. I have worked in different capacities of the fashion and beauty industries for over 25 years but graduate school is where I began deconstructing and dismantling the contracts of beauty, sexuality, and identity. My own identity issues were the impetus for getting my Ph.D studying race and cultural identity [that] gave me the tools to articulate beauty on my own terms.”
Reddy not only understands how beauty, culture, and identity often interconnect—in particular for women of color—but she’s also dedicated to encouraging women to embrace their true and authentic beauty rather than feeling the need to to conform to societal standards. Dehiya Beauty is named after one of the most powerful and fearless warriors in North Africa who continues to be remembered as the epitome of ancient beauty.
“Our beauty lies in our differences, our imperfections, our nuances and our vulnerabilities. It is not perfect symmetry, reconstructed noses, lip injections, fake breasts or booty implants,” she adds. “Our beauty lies in the realness of accepting our “flaws” and owning what makes us unique. It is an ongoing internal conversation but it is one we should all be having with ourselves and then with other women.”
The brand prides itself in championing diverse and inclusive beauty through ethically sourced, plant-based skincare. Best known for their hand-crafted Mihakkat exfoliating cleansing tool and the Aya Restorative Goddess Mask, Dehiya features products that honor traditional beauty rituals and key Moroccan ingredients like argan oil.
“Our beauty lies in the realness of accepting our “flaws” and owning what makes us unique. It is an ongoing internal conversation but it is one we should all be having with ourselves and then with other women.”
Get to Know – Dr. Mia Chae Reddy
What inspires you most about the beauty landscape and industry today?
The future of beauty is going to be dictated by the current culture’s desire for more raw, vulnerable and authentic depictions of what is beautiful. I’m inspired about the evolving Beauty Narrative becoming more inclusive. And with that, the addition of BIPOC and LGBTQIA stories to create a wider, deeper…truer beauty narrative.
What has been the biggest challenge in starting your business?
C.R.E.A.M.––Wu Tang said it best, Cash Rules Everything Around Me. Our lack of capital requires me to be scrappy but I think I perform best in tight spaces. All the photography and website design is done in-house. We haven’t spent any money on marketing or PR so our growth is slower as a result. I have always been good with that business model. After winning the ESSENCE Best in Beauty Award, we really started to gain exposure––Allure, then Harper’s Bazaar, Elle, Cosmopolitan and so on. It’s working for now but I know at some point we will need capital so I am trying to get the systems in place to be ready for when that moment comes.
What has been the biggest win thus far?
I feel there have been a lot of big wins but I’ll say being featured in Allure Magazine’s May 2020 print issue. Jessica Chia wrote a feature on me for a piece on Ph.D-founded beauty brands. It felt like such a big moment because it not only celebrated my accomplishments with Dehiya as brand but my academic achievements as well.
What would you like to see more of in the beauty industry when it comes to diversity and inclusivity?
More consistency. More commitment, thoughtfulness. Dedication to creating a fuller, more comprehensive beauty narrative.